Thursday, June 12, 2008

Take off your bra and show some collar

着付け No unfortunately there is no seedy story to follow in which the above was said to me. Rather, they are the innocent words of my kimono sensei. Since my days as an exchange student in Japan when I took classes from a professional kimono seamstress I have wanted to take kitsuke classes in which one learns how to wear and dress in kimono. If you've ever seen someone dress or undress (lucky you) with kimono, you'll know that there are at least two or three layers of underclothes as well as an assortment of belts, strings, padding and clips which could never be guessed from looking at a woman clad in kimono. In my kitsuke classes I am learning the magic behind the scenes that go into making a kimono ensemble look flawless. And I might add, it is the most relaxing and meditative part of my week. I don't mean that in an orientalist way, like oooh I just lo-ove how relaxing and zen I feel after my Japanesey bonsai/tea ceremony/flower arranging/sword brandishing/calligraphy classes are. I mean in my until recently paranoid and at times depressing days in Japan, I have never had a block of time where I can concentrate solely on one thing, take pleasure in that, and forget about the games going on in my head.

I found a great kitsuke school which is both convenient and unpretentious. There are a lot of big commercial schools that are more like factories turning out women who can now dress like proper ladies. These schools also tend to be like finishing schools for women, cramming in lessons about manners and are a bit too hoity toity for my liking. Many people in the kimono industry are starting to realize that if they want to keep this culture alive they need to stop acting so preachy towards younger women and loosen some of the rules that govern how kimono are worn, in what colour and pattern coordination and in what situation. Wearing kimono does come with a set of manners and body movements to prevent any unsightly exposure but I don't want to pay for lectures on how to be a lady. I'm lady enough.

So on my first day of school I went in a sports bra which is how I've flattened myself for kimono and yukata before. That was the first thing out the window. "Take off your bra" my new sensei instructed. First we tried me in a kimono with no padding or bells and whistles and then started building up from there. To start I got a kimono bra which makes me look the most androgynous I've looked since I was about 11. Then I got some towelling for my lower back to fill in the curve down to my ghetto booty. Last came what looks like a bullet-proof vest but is made of cotton to further flatten my chest.

Fast forward to now when I can now tie an otaiko musubi or a drum bow by myself (it's quite athletic work). I have a few sessions left until the end of the first course, but I'm planning to eventually take a certificate course which would certify me to work as a professional dresser of others. I don't plan to do this but I'm interested in learning the variety of styles and history they teach at that course level. I want to know it all!!

I love the smell of tatami mats and the feel of sliding over them in tabi socks. I love the feeling when all the wrinkles in a kimono I'm wearing are smoothed out and the collar sits just right. I especially love the feel of putting the pieces together, folding the fabric and getting the right lift on an otaiko musubi. It's like putting a puzzle together and when the pieces are properly put together, you know you've tied it right. I'm still surprised sometimes when I'm practicing, at how well everything fits together when done properly, and I can't help but marvel at the ingenuity of it all.

I just found a fantastic page that explains the kimono collar and how the degree to which it is pulled down indicates how much of a whore you are. Coming up in part 2...



Anonymous said...

can i just say i love love love it when i wear yukata (never worn a kimono). getting tied in to it so tightly and securely is almost erotic to me. okay im sharing to much!! anyway, if it weren for my poor language skills i would so take a kitsuke class. ill just settle for living vicariously through you!

wow this comment comes off way creepier than i intended!!! sorr!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Not at all! It is totally hot. Whoever thought up the whole wrapping thing definitely had to have considered the unwrapping too!

You should try a kitsuke class! Or if it seems like too much of a commitment a lot of places offer one time trial lessons.